Eat Your Way To Better Sleep: 5 Tips From A Nutritionist

Posted on March 5, 2024

Invest in the quality of your sleep with these tips from Jessica Williams, board certified Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Professional

According to Medical News, a person in good physical health is likely to have bodily functions and processes working at their peak. This is not only due not only to an absence of disease – regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate rest all contribute to good health. Jessica tackles all three in her day to day job, and gets scientific on real ways we can “rest better” by eating better: 

1. Eat carbohydrates at night

It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s not. According to Jessica, eating carbs at night helps produce serotonin which relaxes and helps prepare you for sleep. It also ensures you don’t end up with low blood sugar, which will cause a stress response in the body resulting in nighttime waking or difficulty falling asleep.

“Of course it needs to be the right type of carbs in the right amounts,” says Jessica. Don’t opt for simple carbs as this will have the opposite effect. “Choose complex carbs in combination with protein and healthy fats.” This leads to her next point…

2. Stabilize your blood sugar

Do you ever experience sleeping poorly after a night of drinking? This has a lot to do with fluctuating blood sugar levels from alcohol. Foods can cause the same disruption. Eat a healthy balanced dinner containing good quality fats and protein to slow the digestion of carbs in that meal. Skip the sugar, processed foods and alcohol. Nighttime waking is often a result of imbalanced blood sugar.

3. Consider taking anti-stress supplements at bedtime
  • Magnesium is the ‘anti-stress’ nutrient, and can be very helpful before bed on its own or in combination with calcium for helping to unwind and aiding sleep. 
  • B vitamins are amazing for supporting a healthy nervous system. They can give an energy boost, calm the nervous system, and quiet nervous energy. 
  • Melatonin is another good sleep aid supporting the body in regulating sleep-wake cycles. 
  • Useful herbs to promote sleep include: valerian, kava, chamomile and hops

Avoid bright lights at night – this means stepping away from your phone and computer

Bright lights, and especially blue light, interfere with signals to your body that it is nighttime. Think back to a time before we didn’t have electricity. Our body clocks were in tune with sunrise and sunset. 

“If you struggle with sleep, I recommend turning off electronics, tv, cell phones from around 8:30pm,” says Jessica. “I also recommend dimming the lights in your house.” According to Jessica, when it gets darker our body starts to produce melatonin which helps prepare us for sleep. Bright and blue lights stimulate the production of cortisol, which wakes us up. The natural rhythm of the body is to have higher cortisol in the morning, which slowly tapers off throughout the day, and for melatonin to rise in the evening. This supports a healthy sleep wake cycle; unnatural light and stress disrupt this cycle.

5. Find ways to manage to manage stress

After working for years with clients who struggle with sleep, Jessica noticed that there is always an element of stress that needs addressing. 

“Stress comes in many forms, both internal and external, and both must be addressed to reduce elevated cortisol,” says Jessica. We tend to be aware of our external stressors like a fight with a spouse or conflict with a colleague, but often people are not aware of internal stressors like unstable blood sugar levels, food sensitivities or parasitic infections. All of these cause a stress response in the body as well.

Jessica recommends doing Yoga, meditation and finding other ways to relax daily. She says exercise is also a huge help, but that intense exercise in the evening may not be helpful for those struggling with sleep.

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